Seahawks search for a speed pass rusher in NFL draft
Players who can get to a quarterback may be front and center when Seattle picks at No. 12, but other teams will be hunting for the same qualities.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Rush to judgmentA look at some of the pass-rushing prospects Seattle will have to choose from, most of whom are certain to be taken in the first two rounds of the draft:
Quinton Coples, 6-6, 284, North Carolina: Though he totaled 17.5 sacks his final two years of college, some question the consistency of his effort. Can someone with that much production really be an underachiever?
Melvin Ingram, 6-1, 264, South Carolina: More an outside linebacker, and Pete Carroll loves versatile players. Ingram can play linebacker, has lined up at tackle and could be a pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Chandler Jones, 6-5, 247, Syracuse: Limited by a knee injury and appeared in only six games as a junior last season, but he has started to bulk up and there's a growing buzz he might be taken in the middle of the first round.
Nick Perry, 6-3, 271, USC: Perry was the third-fastest defensive lineman at the scouting combine. Recruited by Carroll out of Michigan, he had 22 sacks in his three seasons with the Trojans.
Andre Branch, 6-4, 259, Clemson: A two-year starter, he had 10.5 sacks as a senior at Clemson. Recruited as a linebacker, he could be fit for the mold of Seattle's LEO end.
Courtney Upshaw, 6-1, 272, Alabama: He might be a player caught between positions as some teams think he's more linebacker than a pass-rushing defensive end.
Quarterback is called the toughest job in football.
Finding someone to tackle that quarterback is just as troublesome, though. In fact, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he thinks that specific talent might be even harder to locate.
"The most difficult talent to find is pass rushers," Carroll said. "It's why people try so hard and so often with guys early in the draft, trying to nail a pass rusher because they're just so special."
The Seahawks had better pack a lunch when they go to work this week because you know what they're looking for in the NFL draft this Thursday?
A pass rusher.
"There's a lot of edge rushers in this draft, which is exciting," Carroll said. "We're always looking. Certainly in this draft it's one of the issues that we'd like to attend to."
The Seahawks finished with 33 sacks last season, and Chris Clemons was the only player to finish with more than four. So who's Seattle going to select this week in hopes he will wreak all sorts of havoc in opposing backfields? There are several candidates for that job, starting with North Carolina's Quinton Coples, a 6-foot-6 physical specimen who is the kind of pass rusher a football coach would shape were he allowed to mold one from clay.
"He's a classic in the profile of the big pass rusher," Carroll said.
Or perhaps it is South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, who is 4 inches shorter with the versatility of a Swiss Army knife and the athleticism to perform a standing back flip.
"He's utilized totally differently," Carroll said. "He's a shorter guy with shorter leverage and all of that and has effectiveness and a total different style."
Could be Nick Perry, whom Carroll recruited to USC, or perhaps Courtney Upshaw of Alabama. Seattle's hunger for a pass rusher is enough to create its own wave of rumors. ESPN's Todd McShay said Monday he could see Syracuse's Chandler Jones going as high as 12 to Seattle.
So who does Seattle prefer?
You're going to have to wait and see.
"We're open to the variety of guys that can come to us," Carroll said.
Seattle can't afford to wait too long, though. Not if the Seahawks want someone capable of making an immediate impact.
The key to understanding the concept of draft value is realizing it's not just how talented a player is, but how rare those talents are and pass rushers capable of jump-starting a pass rush are so scarce they don't have to wait long to get selected.
In the previous seven years, 12 rookies finished with 10 or more sacks in their first season. Eleven of those players were first-round picks, and 10 were one of the first 13 players chosen that year.
You can find a starting linebacker in the fourth round like Seattle did last year with K.J. Wright. Heck, Doug Baldwin showed you don't necessarily have to spend a draft choice to land a receiver capable of catching more than 60 passes his first season as a Seahawk.
But if you think that you're going to find a pass rusher capable of jump-starting the defense sitting around in the second half of the draft, think again.
Speed is an essential part of the pass rush, a key not only to how fast a player gets off the line of scrimmage, but how quickly they tend to be drafted.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.